Available testing, rigorous contact tracing, enhanced laboratory capacity, and data sharing are all critical parts of preventing and containing the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 tests can detect either SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, or antibodies that your body makes after getting COVID-19 or after getting vaccinated.
There are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19:
- A viral test tells you if you currently have an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Viral tests use samples that come from your nose or mouth. This type of test is also called a diagnostic test.
- Rapid tests can be performed in minutes and can include antigen and some NAATs. Self-tests are rapid tests that can be taken at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results.
- Laboratory tests can take days to complete and include RT-PCR and other types of NAATs. Some test results may need confirmatory testing.
- An antibody test tells you if you previously had an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This type of test is also called a serology test. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection, but may indicate if you had a past infection.
The process and locations for COVID-19 testing vary from place to place.
- If you are sick or think you have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your health care provider.
- If you are seeking COVID-19 testing and/or treatment, make sure you understand the patient protections against “balance billing” for COVID-19 related services.
- If you do not have health insurance, learn how to access COVID-19 services at no cost to you.
HHS has partnered with pharmacy and retail companies to make COVID-19 testing available to more Americans in more communities across the country. COVID-19 tests are also available at health centers nationwide.
At-home tests, or self-tests, are available for free across the country. Self-tests can be taken at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results. If you have symptoms or had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should be tested, regardless of your vaccination status.
Order Free At-Home Tests By Mail
Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free.
Order your tests now so you have them when you need them.
For those who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order, you can call 1-800-232-0233 to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages. This call-line is open 8 a.m. to midnight ET, 7 days a week. There’s also TTY line (1-888-720-7489) to support access by hearing impaired callers.
- If you have private insurance coverage, you can go online, to a pharmacy, or to a store to buy a test and get reimbursed through their insurance, starting on January 15, 2022. Learn how to get free at-home tests.
- If you are charged for your test, keep your receipt and submit a claim to your insurance company for reimbursement.
- Private insurance companies are required to reimburse up to 8 tests per month per individual on an insurance plan.
- If you have Medicaid coverage, you can access at-home COVID tests at no cost through the guidelines established by your state Medicaid program.
- If you have Medicare coverage, you can access testing through your health care provider or local pharmacist or pick up free at-home tests at local pick up locations.
- If you do not have insurance, free at-home self-tests may be available through community health centers and rural health clinics in your community. Learn about this program.
Making Coronavirus (COVID-19) Tests Safe and Available
HHS continues to safely accelerate the authorizations and availability of COVID-19 tests.
- In February 2020, the HHS Secretary declared that circumstances justified the authorization of emergency use for tests to detect and diagnose coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- Medical countermeasures such as tests, devices, and drugs, may be used to understand and meet public health needs during emergencies.
- Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) allow public health experts to strengthen the nation’s response to public health threats by making medical countermeasures regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) available during emergencies.
- View the full list of tests that have received an FDA Emergency Use Authorization.
- NIH is helping to bring more high-quality, at-home tests onto the market in the U.S. as part of the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative.
Learn more about the testing approval and validation process:
State, territorial, and tribal funding provides support to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, conduct surveillance, trace contacts, and implement related activities.
Health center funding supports the expansion of Health Center Program COVID-19 testing capacity including support for the purchase of personal protective equipment, procurement and administration of tests, and laboratory services.
- State-level data on health center COVID-19 testing capabilities and metrics are available online.
Licensed pharmacists may order COVID-19 tests and administer them to their patients, which expands testing capabilities and makes testing more accessible for those who need it.
- The tests must be authorized by the FDA.
- Guidance for Licensed Pharmacists, COVID-19 Testing, and Immunity under the PREP Act (April 8, 2020).
- This guidance is issued by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health under the Secretary’s March 17, 2020 declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act.
Rapid, point-of-care testing is a critical element of the national strategy for testing, especially to support vulnerable patients, outbreak investigations, and frontline healthcare workers.
- HHS is providing these tests to states, territories, and tribes, as well as to remote and rural populations, nursing homes, hotspot areas, and for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).